Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have been informed by the PSNI that they are to face prosecution in relation to rape charges.

The Public Prosecution Service said four men questioned in relation to an incident, which is alleged to have happened in Belfast last year, are to face prosecution.

The PPS said Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are to be charged with rape.

Both men have strenuously denied the charges.

The PPS said another man is accused of sexual offences while the other faces counts of withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

In a statement issued this evening, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said they are aware that the pair have been charged by the PSNI "in relation to serious allegations made against them.

"The players have cooperated fully and strenuously deny the charges.

"The IRFU and Ulster Rugby take these allegations extremely seriously".

The statement added that both players have been relieved of their duties and obligations "until the conclusion of this process".

It concluded: "Appropriate support structures will be put in place with them during this time.

"As this is a matter for the Public Prosecution Service it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding were interviewed by police last November in relation to alleged sexual offences at a property in south Belfast on 28 June 2016.

A legal representative for Mr Jackson said "he rejects completely the allegations made against him and we are confident he will be exonerated in due course".

Mr Olding's solicitor said his client has cooperated fully with the police investigation and is not subject to any bail conditions.

He said Mr Olding is "anxious to restore his good name through the court process in Northern Ireland, where the charge against him will be fully contested."

Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are due in court next month.